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First impressions

Kasewurm, Gyl A. AuD

doi: 10.1097/01.HJ.0000399914.08013.84
Gyl's Guide to Managing for Success

Read sample scripts Gyl Kasewurm developed for front-desk personnel in a future issue of the Hearing Journal enewsletter, HJ NOW! Sign up for your free subscription at



Last year, I had the privilege of visiting the Chianti section of Italy where our travels included a visit to several wineries. While the countryside was beautiful and the wine was great, I found myself a bit bored after the second winery. A winery is a winery, right? That's what I thought until our group reached Casa Emma.

As we approached the remote vineyard, a young Italian man stood in the driveway gleefully waving his arms to welcome us. As he led us on our tour, he explained that Casa Emma was no ordinary winery. His unbridled enthusiasm was so captivating that I found myself riveted on his every word. By the end of the tour, I was convinced that this little known winery was indeed the best in Italy. I left with a happy heart (it wasn't just the wine) wondering how my staff and I could make patients feel as good about my practice as this fellow made me feel about Casa Emma.

First impressions are lasting ones and the first impression of you and your practice is often given by the person managing the front desk and answering the phone. Therefore, it's crucial that this employee is enthusiastic and well trained to handle the job. Accomplishing this will require supervision and ongoing training. If you want to insure that your current and potential patients are made to feel welcome and appreciated every time they call or visit your office, the employee at the front desk should be...

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A ‘people person’

You can train a person to do a job but you can't train a person to be nice. An employee who handles the front desk may be highly qualified, but if he is incapable of engaging patients in light conversation, he may be perceived as unfriendly or indifferent. A receptionist must understand how valuable he is to the organization and should recognize the important role he holds in establishing and maintaining relationships with patients.

Training sessions should be held regularly on how to greet patients as well as on how to be attentive to their individual needs. A good receptionist should have the ability to create a sense of warmth and comfort for patients, not unlike the feeling you would want to give good friends when they enter your home. Something as simple as a smile can go a long way to make a person feel welcome and appreciated.

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Qualified to answer commonly asked questions

The employee who greets patients and answers your phone should be trained to correctly answer patient's most common questions and concerns. A potential patient may have fears about having a hearing evaluation and will resist making an appointment until he is reassured that it is simple and painless.

Potential patients often call to inquire about the cost of hearing aids and the answer can determine whether or not they make an appointment. Keep in mind that if a person is calling in response to an advertisement, you have considerable dollars already invested in the caller and that investment will be lost if no appointment is scheduled. I would recommend composing a script for front desk personnel so they have the available tools to answer the most commonly asked questions. It's a good idea to actually practice those questions and answers with your front office personnel to insure that they feel comfortable and confident with those discussions.

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Familiar with the testing process

Front office personnel should be familiar with the services that you provide in your practice. Take some time to run a complete test battery on your receptionist. Callers often inquire about what they can expect to encounter during their appointment and front desk personnel should be able to outline what the potential patient may experience while in your office.

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Familiar with and excited about the latest technology

Potential patients don't have to look far to see an advertisement for hearing aids and they may call to inquire about specific technologies before making an appointment. The responses to these technology questions can lead to unrealistic expectations if they are not answered appropriately. When a new product is released, include front desk personnel in the training and try to incite in them the same enthusiasm that you have for the new technology.

Of course, no employee will actually admit when a phone call goes poorly. However, Call Source ( is a business that records incoming calls so you can listen to them yourself. This is a great and affordable way to insure that your staff is handling calls the way you want them handled, and more importantly, that most inquiries are being converted into appointments. Lost appointments represent lost revenue.

As the first point of contact for patients, the person handling your front desk and answering your phone is a direct reflection of your practice as a whole. Take some specific steps to make sure he or she shares your enthusiasm for better hearing with every person who calls or visits your practice.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.